Sri Lanka Tourism targets 5,000 more rooms this year | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka Tourism targets 5,000 more rooms this year

SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka exchanges the MoU with UDA Chairman Dr. Jagath Munasinghe
SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka exchanges the MoU with UDA Chairman Dr. Jagath Munasinghe

Sri Lanka Tourism targets around 5,000 hotel rooms to be added to the leisure sector, taking the total number of rooms to around 42,000 by the end of this year, which is required to meet the 4.5 million tourist arrival goal by 2020, a top official of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a ceremony to sign an MoU between SLTDA and the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to enhance cooperation between the two agencies last week SLTDA Director General Uplai Rathnayake said a large number of the hotel rooms will come from the planned and on-going local and international hotel chains in the city.

“We already have around 38,000 hotel rooms and this will go up to over 42,000 which is our expectation to cater to the influx of visitors to the country,” Rathnayake said.

The Radissons Group, the Grand Hyatt, the Waterfront property of the JKH Group and the Damro Marino Sands Hotel and the Shangri la Colombo which is already in operation are some of the leading global and local hotel chains that would make up the number of hotel rooms that the tourism industry has been clamouring for years to cater to the surge in arrivals.

SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka said the tourism industry aims at US$ seven billion revenue from the industry by 2020 making the industry the leading foreign exchange earner to the country.

“We also hope to double the number of jobs from the present 500,000 both direct and indirectly provided by the industry,” Ratnayake said.

However, all these ambitious plans seem easier said than done. Achieving a tall order of this nature according to tourism industry experts will require the stakeholders to walk the talk.

Achieving over 40,000 hotel rooms has been something that has been spoken for years with no practical plan to reach the goal. Having the numbers alone will not help develop the industry.

Better roads, transportation to reach destinations within a shorter time, competitive room rates and well trained hotel staffers are factors that the industry should look into according to industry experts.

However, the signing of the MoU between the SLTDA and the UDA comes as a silver lining to the tourism industry in terms of facilitating a simplified and speedy approval and documentation process for tourism related investments.

Past approvals records for tourism related projects are alarming. Statistics show of the 604 projects that came up during the past two years only 326 received approvals while the rest have not been looked into yet.

Currently preliminary planning clearance takes around 59 days, the development permit process takes 100 days and 85 days to issue the Certificate of Conformity (COC).

With the agreement coming in to force the approval process is expected to be fully streamlined slashing the average number of days for the preliminary planning clearance to 25, development permit process to 30 and issuance of CoC to 30 days.

The ‘One Stop Unit’ of the SLTDA will facilitate the approval process which includes preliminary planning clearance, development permits and the CoC.

UDA Chairman Dr. Jagath Munasinghe said the UDA will extend its fullest support to make the endeavour a success to facilitate a speedy investment approval process for investor convenience and confidence.

The initiative was facilitated by the USAID-SAIL project which is working closely with the SLTDA and the UDA to support development of agreement and the streamlining of the approval process to boost efficiency and cut down on time for investments to get off ground.

The two agencies along with the other key line ministries will collaborate in the streamlining the investment approval process.